There are seven basic steps in the search process:
Start by writing out your research question. You need to filter out the words that are not going to be useful for your search. Search engines will search for exactly what you type into them, including words like "the". You need to make sure you're only using the words that represent your key concepts.
|effect||ozone layer||pollution||computer modelling|
Note:If you are studying health and medical sciences, you will also need to think about the MeSH terms for your keywords. The Using Health and Medical Sciences guide has information on how to do this.
After you identify the key concepts you need to find information on, you can use these techniques to maximise the potential of each of the words and phrases:
Keywords can be formatted and combined into searches using specific words and symbols. You can use these techniques to maximise the effectiveness of your searches and get better quality results.
Demonstration: You may find it easier to understand how using AND, OR and NOT work by watching them is use.
Most databases provide a range of options which enable you to refine your search results by manipulating specific elements of your search. Each database has it's own options for refining the search, the following are common to most databases:
Basic limits There are basic limits that usually just require you to tick a checkbox, or select/enter dates. These are usually near the top of the menu and include:
Article type Some databases allow you to limit your search to a specific type of document, e.g:
Specific fields All databases organise information about their documents into specific fields. You can use theses fields to build much more accurate searches. If you go to the Advanced Search you'll find a dropdown list of available fields next to each search box. Enter your words into the box and select the field you want to search for them in. Examples of searchable fields include:
Below is a video, produced by Curtin University, that demonstrates searching with keywords and searching with subject terms so you can see the difference in results.
You need to review your search results both during, and after, your searches. This helps to ensure that your results are relevant and comprehensive.
During your searches:
After your searches:
Consider your results as a whole. If you have some familiarity with the topic, you may be able to identify whether well-known researchers are represented in your results, or research that you were already aware of (if not, why not?). Consider whether the results appear to be a fair representation of what you would have expected to find, or whether there are elements missing.
Databases are designed to be mined for information, so make the most of them and get as much information as you can from your search results: